Renewable Energy Standards Across the US: A Survey of States' Clean Power Commitments


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The policy toolkit for making clean energy more competitive in the marketplace is pretty empty-looking these days -- there will be no price on carbon for the foreseeable future, whether it be a cap or a tax, and the subsidies for renewable power aren't robust or dependable enough to do the trick (not to mention that they're dwarfed by those received by oil companies). So, a lot of people have turned to the apparently bipartisan, crowd-pleasing renewable energy standard -- instituting a benchmark percentage of clean energy production (usually 10-25%) that utilities would be required by law to meet by a certain date. In fact, a number of states have already enacted an RES. Here's a look at all of the states' commitments to clean energy thus far.

Clean Techies has a lengthy post by a clean tech investor that tackles the pros and cons of the RES, and he breaks down each state's commitment. Here's the list of state renewable energy standards: (note, the following means that electric utilities in Arizona, for example, will have to get 15% their power from renewable sources)

Arizona: 15% by 2025
California: 33% by 2030
Colorado: 30% by 2020
Connecticut: 23% by 2020
D.C.: 20% by 2020
Delaware: 20% by 2019
Hawaii: 20% by 2020
Illinois: 25% by 2025
Iowa: 105 MW
Massachusetts: 15% by 2020
Maryland: 20% by 2022
Maine: 40% by 2017
Michigan: 10% by 2015
Minnesota: 25% by 2025
Missouri: 15% by 2021
Montana: 15% by 2015
New Hampshire: 23.8% by 2025
New Jersey: 22.5% by 2021
New Mexico: 20% by 2020
Nevada: 20% by 2015
New York: 24% by 2013
North Carolina: 12.5% by 2021
North Dakota:* 10% by 2015
Oregon: 25% by 2025
Pennsylvania: 8% by 2020
Rhode Island: 16% by 2019
South Dakota*: 10% by 2015
Texas: 5,880 MW by 2015
Utah*: 20% by 2025
Vermont*: 10% by 2013
Virginia*: 12% by 2022
Washington: 15%by 2020
Wisconsin: 10% by 2015

(* denotes a state with a voluntary standard)

As you can see, these range from relatively ambitious ambitious (Colorado, California New Jersey, and New York's goals are all pretty decent) to the barely-there -- though I guess that in the heart of coal country, Pennsylvania's 8% looks a bit better. And some states don't have any standard at all.

Now, there are still caveats within the different standards, and only certain kinds of 'clean' energy are permitted to count towards each; most commonly, solar, hydro, wind, tidal, biomass, and geothermal. In most cases, sources like clean coal or ethanol power (thankfully) don't count. Nuclear doesn't count at all. This is also a gripe that Clean Techies has with the RES -- the investor thinks it unfair that some clean technologies get an advantage over others. I tend to think it's 100% reasonable to shut out clean coal and ethanol -- they're expensive, resource-consuming disasters -- and to keep nuclear separate, too. Nuclear power projects, after all, are eligible for financial backing from federal loan guarantees -- and we shouldn't force solar, wind, etc, to compete with nuclear for the already thin slice of available pie.

So that's the skinny on the renewable energy standard -- it's in most cases a slow, plodding amble towards marginally cleaner energy production. It's not nearly ambitious enough to put clean energy in a position to knock coal out anytime soon, or to seriously address climate change -- which is also probably why it's the only thing resembling climate policy many states have managed to pass.

More on the Renewable Energy Standards
Higher National Renewable Energy Standard Means Hundreds of Jobs
Colorado Legislature Approves 30% by 2020 Renewable Energy Standard - Only California's is Higher
China's Stunning New Renewable Energy Standard: 20 Percent by 2020

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